One of the first things I learned when I started my own business was how much time it takes to do all of the admin work. When I say admin work, I mean all of the stuff that is periphery to the activities you actually get paid for.
This includes all of the work that goes into getting hired, such as consultation calls and email correspondence with potential clients, marketing, blogging, networking, etc.
It also includes all of the tasks you perform once you land a client, such as putting together contracts, sending questionnaires and documentation, correspondence, calls and meetings, invoicing…you get the picture!
I’ve written before about the importance of defining your working process. Along with the perks of feeling confident and organized, creating a system or process is going to save you a lot of time, stress and anxiety.
So how do you do this?
Make an ordered list.
First, list out all of the tasks that need to be done in order to get started working with a new client. Anything that is absolutely necessary for you to begin work on the project. A lot of these things might seem obvious, but write them down anyway. Get specific. As you list out the items, you might find yourself adding sub-tasks or rearranging the order of tasks. Sign contracts might turn into a few sub-tasks, 1. confirm timeframe or completion date 2. prepare contract 3. send contract 4. sign contract and send a client copy.
Getting specific on all of the steps that go into your process is not just important for organization. It also really helps you get a clearer idea of how much time you’ll need to set aside for each client. This information will help you manage your schedule accordingly and becomes super useful when figuring out how much you want to charge for your packages or services.
Figure out your systems.
I used to feel overwhelmed and unsure at the beginning of every new project. Even after being in business for a while, I felt like I was “figuring things out as I go” every single time. Then I realized this was totally fixable. I just needed to decide on the right systems to complete my tasks. Here are a few systems that helped me streamline:
- Invoicing and payment – How do you invoice your clients and what forms of payment do you accept? I personally use Quickbooks to send invoices and receive payment. Everything is in one place and is easy to track. There are free tools out there, too. I used to use Wave, but I switched over to Quickbooks because it was more robust for my purposes.
- Contracts – How do you require signature on your contracts? Do you require a snail mail signed copy? Perhaps consider speeding up the process using a service like HelloSign.
- Documents – How do you deliver new client documents? I prefer to use Google Drive. I set up a new folder for each client and upload their New Client Package, which includes questionnaires that they can fill out directly in Google Docs. Both parties can edit these docs, leave notes and questions. When the project is completed, I download the folder, zip it up and send it to the client with any other deliverables. There are other great cloud computing services out there, such as DropBox. Evernote is also a great tool for collaborating on (this is my absolute favorite app for keeping notes organized!).
- Scheduling – Keeping track of meetings and deadlines is very important. I recommend deciding on dates and times for all check-ins and getting them on a calendar at the very beginning of a project. I use Acuity Scheduling because it’s easy to use and it also enables clients to schedule their own meetings with me. It helps make sure I’m never double-booked, since it allows you to set the days and times you’re available. And possibly one of the most useful parts for me is that it takes the guess work out of dealing with different time zones! Even if you’re just using a calendar app for now, find a scheduling system that works for you and remember those important dates.
- Task management – Remember that ordered list you create before, with all of the super detailed tasks? Figure out a way to keep track of which things have been done and which are still on your plate. I LOVE using Trello for this. It’s a free app that let’s you organize items, set due dates, invite collaborators, upload documents. It’s a great organizational tool and perfect for collaborating with your team and/or clients. Lists are great and all, but Trello takes that list and turns it into a visually clear, drag and drop solution for getting stuff done!
Once you have a process, stick to it.
I used to waste hours fretting over the wording of contracts and emails to potential clients. So much time was spent searching through past emails to try and find one tiny piece of information a client had sent to me once and I didn’t want to have to email again to ask for it. All of this can be a thing of the past when you figure out your process. The key is to stick to it! It may take a while to get it ironed out but once you’ve figured out what works for you, keep doing it!
This is where the confidence part comes in. Knowing exactly what comes next every step of the way will make you feel like a true pro. And when you’ve got everything covered, your clients will notice, too.